It is 9am on a Sunday, and a group of radical leftists are gathered at a shooting range in rural Long Island having target practice. From a distance, it looks like a scene from any small, conservative redneck dating site in America: A group of guys palling around in a snow-covered parking lot, taking turns firing down the range while swigging cups of hot coffee to ward off the cold. Up close, however, it looks quite different.
One has a hammer and sickle etched into the bolt. The men are genial but reserved, keeping their distance from the other groups around them. And one of them is complaining bitterly about his coffee. It came in a Styrofoam cup. It takes, like, 50,000 years to decompose!
The environmentalist’s name is Mike, a Long Island native and self-described Marxist-Leninist. He was born in conservative Suffolk County to a clerical worker and industrial maintenance technician. There’s got to be an answer for why this is so shitty. One night earlier this year, after a couple of beers, Mike decided to find some like-minded radicals on Long Island. That’s how he found Redneck Revolt, and how came to be standing on the gun range that day. Redneck Revolt is a national activist organisation that advocates for the downfall of capitalism through the elimination of racism.
Its founders believe strongly that working-class liberation can only occur when workers unite, regardless of race. So in 38 different locations around the country, Redneck Revolt mobilises poor, rural white people to stand up for people of colour. And yes, they carry guns. The members of Redneck Revolt don’t want you to sit in a circle, hold hands, and sing Kumbaya. Who lives in the houses or trailers in the same neighbourhoods as us?
Who works next to us in the factories, or cooks alongside us at the restaurants? It’s Brown people, Black people, and other working-class white people. They are the ones that are in similar situations to us, living paycheck to paycheck, stretching to feed their families like we do. So why then would we view them as so different from us that we literally view them as our enemies? The message seems to be catching on.
From the group’s humble beginnings in Colorado and Kansas, it has spread to nearly 40 branches nationwide. Members participate in everything from community gardens to counter-protests at right-wing marches. The group counter-recruits in many traditionally white spaces, such as NASCAR races and gun shows. Instead, they host potlucks with neighbouring leftist organisations and protest prison conditions with Black Lives Matter. They also grow their own community garden, and go out every Thursday to feed the homeless. According to Redneck Revolt’s mission statement, organising people also requires organising a defence of their communities.
The Suffolk County branch group meets up for weekly sessions at the range, the name of which they asked to be kept secret. Mike says those are some of his favourite days on the range. And seeing a whole bunch of leftists with guns is cool. Not everyone thinks the guns are cool, of course. Redneck Revolt has gotten pushback from liberal groups who think the weapons sully their image. But the members maintain that the firearms are necessary to protect themselves, and the communities of colour they want to help serve.
For us, that means that we meet our neighbours face-to-face, and stand alongside them to face threats whenever possible. Witnesses said they saw a 27-year-old white man purposely run over the two bikers with his minivan. The suspect, however, was charged only with one count of reckless endangerment. Shortly after the charges were announced, Redneck Revolt joined the Justice for Keenan and Anthony Coalition with the PSL and a local Black Lives Matter chapter. The coalition lobbied the district attorney to upgrade the charges, marching in a protest that momentarily shut down the same highway where the bikers were killed. The charges in the case were upgraded to second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide last month.
For some, this may be an even more confusing concept than the guns: Why would an anti-capitalist movement of poor, rural white folks dedicate so much time and energy to fighting racism? George, one of the founding members of the Suffolk County branch, showed me how he would explain the topic to a fellow working-class white person. I would say, at the end of the day both guys are trying to support their families. And it’s the employer who’s screwing you by hiring somebody at a lower wage. Redneck Revolt is not, of course, the first group of white people to organise on behalf of people of colour. 60 years ago in Chicago to defend the rights of poor people of all races.